Posts filed under ‘Movies’

[Lesson] Latin in the Reformation

Subject: World History
Topic: The Reformation
Purpose: To get students to experience why so many believed it was important to pray, read the Bible and perform church services in their own language instead of in Latin.

This is a fairly simple, yet quite powerful lesson utilizing media. All you need is any DVD with both an English and a foreign language track. It is especially helpful if that foreign language is uncommon in your community. For my purposes I use Madagascar which has a language track in French.

Prior to the lesson create a “quiz” about a short section of the movie. I used a 5 minute section with 5 questions and that seemed to make the point fine. However, I added to this by speaking in French myself. If you are not going to use the foreign language in your own instructions perhaps a longer segment and quiz would help. Translate the quiz into the language of the clip you are going to show. Google’s language translator is sufficient for this as even if it has some minor grammatical errors students won’t know and the point of the lesson is unaffected.

When the lesson begins handout the quiz in the foreign language without explaining why. Put a slide on the screen giving instructions on how to take the quiz, again this should be in the foreign language. If students question you emphatically deny that there is any problem and that this is simply how things are done. It is especially helpful if you give your explanation in a foreign language as well (even one you make up on the spot can work just fine.) If you happen to speak Latin, by all means use that! Do not use English if at all possible. You are better off not speaking at all and just shrugging as if you don’t understand their questions.

Show the clip in the foreign language. I feel that it helps to show a clip from a movie most kids are familiar with. Though the mass was in Latin it was still a familiar setting and message to the people. After the clip is over they are to do the quiz. The blank stares and exasperation you’ll get are priceless. Once everyone has finished (or sufficient time has passed) show the same movie clip again but this time flip the language track back to English. Then have students retake the quiz in English. Grade the quizzes and have students compare their results. Invariably they will have done better on the English quiz.

This then leads into a discussion of the important of the use of the common language in the church.


January 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

[REVIEW] Eagle Eye

Title: Eagle Eye
Media: Movie
Primary Subject: US Government

SPOILER WARNING: Do not read this review if you care about keeping the ridiculous plot of this movie a secret.

This was a pretty awful movie but at least helps to prove that you can find educational content just about anywhere. The movie is not classroom appropriate due to plenty of bad language. The violence is mostly of the off-screen variety but it is fairly intense at points as well.

Motivational Potential:
I’m willing to guess many kids will have seen the movie. It was targeted at the 15-30 market in my opinion and did fairly well in theaters. Setting up a scenario to discuss the various government issues in the film would certainly be interesting to kids.

Educational Potential:
Without spoiling too much the movie revolves around eliminating the chain of succession in the US government down to just one in the chain who is acceptable to the movie’s villain. The film never explains that is what is happening except to say “You will be the next president” at one point. It would require some background to know what was going on. There is also a short scene with a partial reading of the Preamble to the Constitution that is pretty cool in terms of how it is animated. There are equally minor references to the Constitution’s discussion of power.

The movie, however, doesn’t do anything to teach what these things are. It does, however, at least paint a picture of why we have a chain of succession and what the Constitution, taken to the extreme, might mean.

I didn’t expect to find anything educational in this movie when I plopped down to watch it this morning but there it was. If I taught U.S. government and if I felt that chain of succession was something worth teaching I think I’d take the time to edit the film’s ending sequence to show at least that (as most of the references are found here.) I think I will use the Preamble scene for US history as it is already. Again, it was really not a good movie but I think kids, who don’t tend to over-think (or think at all…) during movies would be plenty motivated by it.

July 13, 2009 at 7:32 pm Leave a comment

[REVIEW] National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Title: National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Type: Movie
Primary Subject: U.S. History

So wait, history is cool?! Apparently it can be! National Treasure 2 essentially follows the same pattern as the original. Historian/treasure hunter finds clues hidden in historical documents and locations to lead to an undiscovered treasure. While a “real” historian might be bothered by the rather unreal glorification of the profession I’d argue this is no different than the way most jobs are presented in media and it is, in fact, good for history teachers. I don’t care why students become interested in history, I just care that they are!

Motivational Potential:

Top-notch movie in terms of everything a kid would want. Jerry Bruckheimer produced movies always movie quickly and with high energy -this is no exception. What Pirate of the Caribbean does for pirates, this movie does for historians. If discussed properly I could see many kids coming away with a serious interest in history and archaeology.

I always present history as putting together a puzzle. This movie takes that to “Hollywood” level where everything in history is part of one puzzle or another (or all part of one big one!) With the movie as the backdrop any future discussions of history would be much more interesting to students. They could start to view facts as puzzle pieces and not just trivia pieces to be memorized and forgotten quickly after a test.

The movie is rated PG which I know is a problem for many schools. Know that this is about the least objectionable PG movie you’ll find. There’s no foul language and not even any innuendo. There are a few “romantic” scenes but none beyond a slightly passionate kiss. The violence is all threatened at worse minus some destroyed property and a car crash or 10. Guns are flashed but never used. It is far less violent than Peter Pan or even the animated version of Robin Hood.

It is, however, very long. The movie runs about 2 hours, 10 minutes which might make it hard to justify using the class time. It could be cut down to about an hour and 30 to fit into two class periods but it would take some key editing to keep the true feel of the movie.

Educational Potential: 1/5
History is referenced constantly but the subjects are always very fleeting and rarely explained. The discussion of dead languages and the importance of protecting archaeological finds could easily be used apart from the movie though.

Again, I’d argue the true educational benefit comes from the interest in history in general it will generate among students. In a U.S. history course I think it would be more than worthwhile (though one might argue the first film is better for that, I wouldn’t) but in World history, perhaps not.

This will almost certainly become my new “End of Testing” reward movie. I’d love to find a way to use it earlier in the year as I truly would like to see what inspiration it would provide to students. It would be hard to justify giving up the two class periods, however, given that I teach world history.

I hope this franchise continues as anything that can give historians a rock star quality is all right in my book.

July 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

REVIEW: Year 1

Title: Year 1
Media Type: Movie
Primary subject: Ancient Israel

Year 1
Hollywood has quite a legacy of putting history on film. From the early epics like Ben Hur, to modern action movies like Gladiator Hollywood has presented history in a very powerful, if somewhat fictionalized way. These epic films have shaped entire viewpoints of history and inspired people to study subjects they might not have otherwise touched.
Year 1 is not one of those films.
Year 1 is a comedy based very loosely on the events of The Old Testament. It is often crude and boring for unnecessarily long segments but it certainly has laughs.
The question is does it bring anything to the classroom?

Motivational Potential
Judging by the crowd in the showing I just attended many students will have seen this movie. The audience was easily 50% under 14 (the movie is rated PG-13) so any reference you make to it likely will be understood by many students. Even if they don’t see it there has been a fairly massive advertising campaign that will at least make students aware of the movie.
The rating is low due to the fact that ultimately many of the jokes will not be understood by kids. They will certainly get the toilet humor which would have to be edited out anyway but they will not get most of the historical gags which you might actually use.
For example, there is a scene early on where two men are discussing traveling beyond their village. When one argues that will simply lead to them falling off the edge of the Earth the other protests saying there must be more to the world. This leads the first to give a doubtful look to which the latter replies “Would you stop looking at me like I’m some kind of idiot?” The first mumbles in response “well, it is generally accepted knowledge…” In context that short exchange could be motivating but it would probably require more explaining than the length of the clip itself.

Educational Potential
In a course on ancient history there is definitely some content here that could be of use. Additionally, the above mentioned discussion on the size of the world could find a place in many units of history. There are scenes based on Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac and Sodom and Gomorrah. There are some potentially useful scenes late in the movie showing the reliance many had on “the gods” for their provisions historically.
Ultimately though the “history” here takes a very far back seat to the story and the jokes. Even the scenery is weak at best in portraying the historical period.

I’m sadly disappointed. When I first saw the commercial for this movie back during the Super Bowl I had high hopes. It seemed to take place during the Roman Empire (which the very misleading title “Year 1” also implies) and looked to provide a different perspective on it. It didn’t. The movie takes place entirely in ancient Israel and doesn’t do much with it anyway. There might be something here if you really, really dig but given the weak motivational potential it really isn’t worth it.

June 20, 2009 at 3:01 am Leave a comment


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